Tree planting just the start for Rhinelander Tree Board
By Eileen Persike
Arbor Day was celebrated Monday, June 8, at Rhinelander City Hall. Usually observed in April, the holiday was put on hold due to the coronavirus restrictions. The recently revived city Tree Board took the opportunity Monday to plant a pine tree at city hall. Board chairman Tom Jerow donated the tree in memory of his grandmother who worked in the logging industry when she was young.
The tree board, not yet an official board of the city, will be advisory in nature.
“A lot of our efforts will go toward education, encouraging people to plant trees and helping people with tree problems,” Jerow said.
Trees are important to Jerow, who is retired following a 25-year career with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and he said they are an important part of making a community livable. Though there are many trees in Rhinelander, Jerow said streets were lined with large trees in the 1930s.
“It took a lot of foresight for people to plant these trees,” he said, adding that R.H. Reik, for whom Reik Street is named, planted hundreds of maple trees in the old hospital neighborhood.
“On Wabash Street, where they did the recent street project – those were trees he planted,” Jerow said. “We’re doing a great job of repairing our streets and I’m a big advocate of that, but part of that has to be replanting trees. If you never replant, it changes the characteristics of the neighborhood.”
The board applied for an AARP grant to purchase trees for Wabash Street. If the board does not get the grant, Jerow said it will be back to the drawing board and working with city departments to see what can be budgeted. “There’s always the opportunity for people in the neighborhood to donate a tree or plant a tree,” he added.
About five years ago a group of residents got together and planted some 100 disease-resistant elm trees, and Jerow said a year later he worked with beekeepers to plant a couple dozen basswood, a tree that bees love.
The tree board will tour downtown Rhinelander June 11 to inspect the trees that were planted following the Brown Street renovation project a few years ago. Jerow said most are doing well, with only five or six that will need to be replaced.
“There is good data about retail and the importance that trees have in attracting people to shopping,” Jerow said. “Even more important in downtowns. They encourage people to stay longer and shop and spend more.”
It does cost money to maintain a city forest, Jerow added, but “overall there’s a net benefit.” In the future he hopes the board can sponsor a century tree program and promote some of the city’s green gems, including the Holmboe natural area.